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Women's activist Brinda Karat
Very blatant gender discrimination which weakens the democratic process
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 11:07 GMT
Women's quota row prompts walkout

Women voters The government is accused of not being serious about equality for women

Opposition parties have walked out of the Indian parliament to protest over the government's handling of a bill to reserve a third of seats for women.

Congress Party and left-wing members of the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) said the government was not serious about reserving seats for women.

Sonia Gandhi Sonia Gandhi: No time left for bill

"Only four days are left [before the parliament session ends]," opposition leader Sonia Gandhi said.

"I would like to know whether the government has any intention to introduce the bill and get it passed."

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said it would be presented in parliament in the current session, but would not give a date.

"I once again reiterate the government's intention to introduce the women's reservation bill in this session," Mr Mahajan told the house.

Passage of the bill is complicated by the fact that some parties oppose it in its current form - although they support the principle of reservations for women.

I reiterate the government's intention to introduce the bill in this session
Pramod Mahajan

The Rashtrya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party want separate quotas to be allocated for Muslim and lower caste women.

Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party has called for the bill to be altered.

"We are prepared to sacrifice our membership of the house, but we will not allow introduction of the bill in its present form, which is aimed at destroying our parliamentary system," he said.

There are 43 women out of the 545 MPs in the current parliament, down from 49 in the previous one.

Women's groups campaigning for the bill say they are extremely disappointed at the delay.

Even if the government manages to table the bill during the current session of parliment, it is unlikely to be passed as political parties remain divided over the issue.

The bill, which involves amending the Indian constitution, will require the support of two-thirds of the lower house's deputies.

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See also:
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
India introduces women's bill
02 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian insurance bill passed
22 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Upping the pace of reform
29 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Stormy start for Indian parliament
19 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Sonia to lead parliamentary opposition

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